Schwittay, Anke / 2011. The marketization of poverty.
Current Anthropology, 52 (S3): S71-S82.

Increasingly, transnational corporations (TNCs) see themselves, and are seen by multilateral development organizations and national governments, as part of the solution to global poverty alleviation. Guided by C. K. Prahalad’s theories about the “bottom of the pyramid” (BoP), TNCs are developing products and services for the billions of people living on a few dollars a day that are supposed to enable these poor people to enterprise themselves out of poverty. In the process, poverty and the poor are made amenable to market interventions by being constituted as a potential new market for TNCs. Hewlett-Packard’s (HP’s) e-Inclusion program was the first corporate-wide BoP initiative in the high-tech industry that aimed to create corporate and social benefits. An analysis of its company-internal evolution from an intrapreneurial initiative to a fully incorporated business operation is complemented by a study of e-Inclusion’s activities in Costa Rica, which aimed to improve the lives of rural Costa Ricans by providing access to HP technology and by creating new sources of income for electronic entrepreneurs. However, transforming the poor into protoconsumers of TNC products and services cannot address the structural drivers of their circumstances and will lead to neither the eradication of poverty nor a corporate fortune at the BoP.

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Sector: Enterprise Microcredit Access
Region: Central America